Fear damages decision-making more than any other emotion.
Forget your biases. Forget love. Forget greed.
It’s the fear of being wrong.
Those fear feelings aren't nice.
Consider the moment a thumping sensation rises from your chest. Your blood races to the skin, creating little bubbles on your forehead which gravity pulls down your face. The sensations cause you to fidget as you generate a thousand questions, each one pouring forth as rapidly as tracer fire from a machine gun.
Whether you face you fear or not, hindsight will laugh at you.
It will ridicule you for the uncomfortableness you felt. Of course, other biases won't remind you how to manage your feelings the next time a tough decision arises.
Unfortunately, most of us experience this fear of being wrong. The responsibility to be right can be overwhelming. Problems surface everywhere, but commonly these are:
- More uncertainty
- Second-order effects
The fear of being wrong forces us to freeze. In freezing, the only outcome is indecision. Then the decision falls to forces outside of your control.
Not making a decision only breeds more uncertainty. When we freeze, we begin to sacrifice any control to entropy.
Actions have consequences. Fear stops you from thinking about the second-order effects your choice will have.
Emotions throttle our rational minds. What we need is a simpler, easier way to dampen the rising tide of fear. It turns out there are 3 different approaches you can take to help you overcome the fear of being wrong.
• Break it down
Tough decisions are complex ones.
So break it down.
Separating complex decisions into their component parts will make the decision-making process easier. You might find you can make the first part of the decision immediately because it’s a choice you can undo. More information comes to light which frequently means the next choice is an easier one.
There is another upside to breaking down your decision.
Decisions are fundamentally problems. When you change your mindset from being a decision-maker to a problem-solver, your approach changes. Curiosity arises as you seek to understand the basic fundamentals of the problem.
When the fundamentals become clear, solutions begin to appear. Now, you can begin to reason from first principles.
Breaking your decisions isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort to shake off the fear of getting a decision wrong.
• Seek Guidance
We are living in a world where everything is on repeat. It is highly unlikely you are the first to face this decision.
Yes, there will be plenty of others who have been where you are.
So, stop trying to reinvent the wheel.
As I’ve said before, ask yourself, what if this was easy?
The internet, ChatGPT, the library, your friends, and even strangers you’ve never spoken to can give you guidance to make this process easier. We live in the information age. The guidance you need to prevent this fear of being wrong manifesting is far closer than you realise.
Stop the fear from taking hold and start looking for those with the experience to help you.
• Prioritize the important
Frequently, we look at decisions as a linear process.
A to B, B to C and so on.
But what if you shifted your perspective and focused on the important parts first?
Stop limiting your view of progress as linear. Look for the important points, which, when decided make the small stuff far easier to resolve.
Building a bridge doesn’t start at one end and finish at the other. No, we build the foundations into the riverbed, giving the bridge the pillars it needs.
Why should making tough decisions be any different?
Overcoming your fear of being wrong isn’t easy, but it can be simple.
You don’t need to drown yourself in complicated frameworks. Yes, they help. But, like anything, they take practice to use comfortably.
The easier way is to use the approaches I've outlined.
Each step is simple to understand because we already do them. We break things down, seek guidance, and prioritize all the time. These are core human skills found in us all.
Sometimes, a reminder (like this article) is the nudge we need to know there is a different way to overcome our fears. So, the next time you worry about being wrong, don’t fear it, face it.